The Internet Monk
"the power of opinion, the phenomenon of speech, the impact of truth"
A Webjournal edited by Michael Spencer
Condit and Levy: Our National Train Wreck
by Michael Spencer
A few years ago there was a train wreck in the little town where I lived. Not a couple of derailed cars, but a nightmare of over twenty cars piled into a river in a tangled, metallic catastrophe. People drove from all over the state just to take it in. You couldn't help looking. You didn't know what caused it, and you might not have known what really occurred, but you had to stop and look at that train wreck. It was just too fascinating to pass up.
The Condit/Levy train wreck has kept the national media busy throughout the summer. From Dan Rather's stoic refusal to mention it, to Fox News' running all Chandra, all the time, it's been the major media story of the year. Since our current President is keeping his pants on and Mrs. Bush is interested in reading, its fallen on Representative Condit to be the Democrat entertainment of the hour.
And what an excellent choice. Condit is like a Democratic experiment gone horribly wrong. He's a badly run amuck version of Democrat Young Frankenstein. Preacher's kid. Harley Rider. Conservative. Multiple philanderer. Serial Liar. Bumbling manipulator. The political sensibilities of a Yak. The media charisma of a cornered possum. Only in California could this guy get elected multiple times. Naturally, he served on the Intelligence Committee.
Please note that I did not say the man is a criminal, because I don't believe he had a thing to do with the poor girl's disappearance. If I'm wrong, I'll say sorry on this web site, but I'll be quite surprised. It is far more likely that Levy is the victim of a random killer, even though there are strange aspects to the case if it is a "regular" crime. I understand the reluctance to believe a street thug would hide a body this well, and I understand the conspiratorial mindset that says a pregnant Levy had to be eliminated to save Condit's pretense of family values. But at this point, it doesn't work for me. I'll stay tuned for any convincing evidence to the contrary.
No, this train wreck is not a murder mystery for me. It is an indicator of what is happening in the interaction between Americans and their government. A government that is increasingly showing a face that is frightening the average citizen, and breeding a brand of cynicism that everyone is underestimating in its corrosive impact on our culture.
Modesto, California sent Chandra Levy to Washington to do well. Being a federal government intern is quite an honor in small town America. Moms and Dads still speak with awe about their little girl being part of the federal government. Grandparents save newspaper clippings. They expect their children to return to do the local news, speak at the Kiwanis, be applauded at their high schools and to be bragged on at dozens of family gatherings.
It's safe to say they don't send their children into the idealistic world of government to be seduced by a playboy congressman who is screwing around on a sick wife back home and bullying anyone who talked about his affairs. I doubt if all those folks Mr. Condit wants to vote for him would vote the same way knowing he is the kind of guy who shacks up with the baby-sitter. And her sister. And his chief of staff's girlfriend. America may not have wanted to impeach Bill Clinton, but nobody was impressed with a politician having a go at an intern his daughter's age. Ditto Mr. Condit. Wipe that stupid grin off your face before somebody's father knocks it off.
The Democrats, just beginning to pretend they had wiped the sleaze of Clinton off their party, now find themselves represented in the public mind by a guy who has more mistresses than socks, and is nowhere as good as Clinton at lying about it. Of course, Condit is pressing forward with re-election. I mean, he's a politician, what else can he do?
(By the way, why can't American politicians have normal mistresses their own age? Why do they have to find women just out of high school? It's creepy to hear people say Chandra bragged about her boyfriend looking Harrison Ford. Good Grief Grandpa. Guys like Clinton and Condit are making us look bad compared to the French!)
Back to what Mr. Condit could do other than put us through the media circus of a campaign premised on the people of Modesto being collective less intelligent than a sack of hammers. I have an answer. Mr. Condit can admit his sleaze ball lifestyle and resign his seat, saving the Democrats a certain defeat by anything with a pulse that runs against him. He can shoot totally straight about Levy, instead of being so ridiculously evasive that the police have to torture the guy to get a straight answer. He can tell the American people that he has shamed his office and abused his privileges, instead of sounding like a victim himself. (Prepping for later Oprah appearances and his own talk show no doubt.) He can quit abusing his staff and acting as if this is all one day away from vanishing. He can go away. Vanish like his friend. That would help.
The fact that he is innocent of murder doesn't matter at this point. His affair with an intern is abuse of office. Condit has become the poster child for the person who can excuse anything by saying that there is at least one human being somewhere worse than him. Let's hope he is right. (Worse maybe. More stupid, doubtful.)
It is this sort of train wreck that is driving a wedge between Americans and their representatives and public servants. We have passed the point of seeing them as incompetents and thieves. We now strongly suspect they are predators. We believe our children are not safe working for them, and we believe none of us are really safe with them in charge. Leaders ought to be good people. That sounds simple enough. So why do have to listen to so many people explaining that simple decency is not really necessary to leading the country? I mean, I'd like my garbage man to be a good person. Why not my congressman or my President? Why do I want someone running my country when I wouldn't trust him to pick up my kids from school?
I cannot imagine what Condit's behavior is doing to whatever sliver of idealism remains in America's young people. Politicians like Condit have disconnected their own behavior from the fragile trust relationship between governed and government that makes our republic possible. Is Condit such a terrible person? I don't know, but he represents the cynicism towards public life that is infecting our society, and is sowing the seeds of a mighty discontent in the future.
And that will be a train wreck none of us will want to see.